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Sermon and Liturgy For The Seventh Sunday of Easter - Ascension - Year B
Acts 1:1-11, Psalm 47, John 17:6-19
"The Ascension of Our Lord"

READING:  Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47; John 17:6-19
SERMON :  "The Ascension of our Lord"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
b-ea07su 000885

   The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
   for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
   found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
   SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.
   This service uses both texts for the Day of Ascension (Acts
   1:1-11 and Psalm 47) and the Gospel text for Easter 7B (John
   17:6-19).  The latter text will be proclaimed with reference
   to the Ascension and what the Ascension means in light of the
   Gospel passage.

   Sources: Prayer of Invocation based on Nathan Nettleton,, "Eucharistic Preface - Ascension" as
   sent to the PRCL List, May 29, 2000.  The Prayer for Grace
   prior to the sermon and elements of the Prayers of the People
   taken from John Maynard (quoting Bruce
   Prewer "The Right Hand Man", Prayers and Litanies For
   Ascension of Our Lord and Easter 7, May 30, 2000; as sent to
   the PRCL-List, May 30, 2000.  Sermon starter from Ralph
   Milton, "Rumors Newsletter",, May 28,
   2000 and material from Jude Siciliano, O.P., "First Impressions 
   Volume 1 Easter 7  06-04-00"

GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)

* WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP (based on Psalm 103:19-22)
L  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, 
   and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P  And also with you.
L  The Lord has established his throne in heaven.
P  His kingdom rules over all. 
L  Praise the Lord, you his angels, 
   you mighty ones who do his bidding.
P  Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, 
   you his servants who do his will. 
L  Praise the Lord, all his works everywhere in his dominion. 
P  Praise the Lord, O my soul and forgot not all his benefits.

* INTROIT:  "Holy, Holy, Holy" (verse 1)                           - VU 315

With thanks and praise we shout our joy to you, O God, for you rule over
all the earth from you sacred throne.  Through Moses and the prophets you
spoke to us, telling us of Christ who fills all in all.  As it was written,
he suffered and was killed, but you raised him from the dead and he walked
again with his chosen ones, speaking to them of your glorious kingdom.  You
carried him up into heaven and seated him at your right hand so that he
might be everywhere present, not only in this age but also in the age to
come.  So it is today we gather in his name to praise and glorify you and
to learn once again those things you would have us do and be, even as we
remember all that you have done and yet will do.  Blessed be your name, O
Lord, and blessed be this time of worship.  Amen.

* HYMN:  "Rejoice! The Lord is King"                               - VU 213

- Announcements
- Birthdays and Anniversaries
- Sharing Joys and Concerns


CHILDREN'S TIME: "In The World, But Not of The World"
Theme:    Those In Christ Are Different
Object:   Jar of Oil and Food Dyed Water (emulsion)
Source:   Based on a Concept by the Rev. Mac Campbell, United Church of

Fill a jar you can seal (a quart jar works fine), about 1/3 full with 
water, and add enough bright-coloured food colouring (red, dark blue, etc.)
to make it readily visible.  Ad another 1/3 of a jar or so of vegetable
oil.  The oil will float on the water.  When you shake the jar vigorously, 
the oil and water will "mix" and become a single, coloured liquid.  But if
left to stand (a half minute in usually lots of time), it becomes clear
that the water, while it was very much "in" the oil, never really became
"of" the oil; it always maintained its own identity.  Also interesting to
note that the oil doesn't remain absolutely clear; there is a slight
reddish (or bluish, or whatever) tinge to it.  Being in but not of the
world does make a change in the world.

   Two things in this jar....  Can you guess?   Coloured water --- and
   oil.  What do you notice about them??  (separate)

   Today - I want you to pretend that you are the water -- a beautiful
   blue -- and that the world out there is the oil. 

   Now -- let me shake the jar to pretend that you have gone out into
   the world.... And then I want you to think about Jesus.   And what
   it is he wants for you when you go out into the world?  (To show
   love, to care, to follow his commands, to have joy and spread joy)

   Before Jesus died he prayed for his disciples that they would go out
   in the world, but not be of the world.  That they would always be
   beautiful and bright   and add their gifts to the world (just as the
   water has added some colour to the oil)  but that the world will not
   stain or corrupt them.  That they would remain the person God made
   them to be and know his love and be loving to others.

   This prayer is for us too.  We become like this water when we
   believe in Jesus and obey his commandments.  We are made like Jesus
   by the power of his Holy Spirit and are able to make a difference to
   world without becoming part of the world or becoming lost in it. 
   Jesus protected his disciples from being lost - and he protects us
   to... just as this coloured water is, always, in the end, separate
   from the oil.


* HYMN:  "Jesus Bids Us Shine"                                     - VU 585

   (NIV)  In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus
   began to do and to teach {2} until the day he was taken up to heaven,
   after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he
   had chosen. {3} After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and
   gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over
   a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. {4} On one
   occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do
   not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which
   you have heard me speak about. {5} For John baptized with water, but in
   a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." {6} So when they
   met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to
   restore the kingdom to Israel?" {7} He said to them: "It is not for you
   to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. {8}
   But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you
   will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to
   the ends of the earth." {9} After he said this, he was taken up before
   their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. {10} They were
   looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men
   dressed in white stood beside them. {11} "Men of Galilee," they said,
   "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has
   been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you
   have seen him go into heaven."

L  This is the word of the Lord
P  Thanks be to God.


RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 47 (Voices United 771) and Refrain #2

A READING FROM John 17:6-19 
   (NIV)  "I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world.
   They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.
   {7} Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. {8}
   For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew
   with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent
   me. {9} I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those
   you have given me, for they are yours. {10} All I have is yours, and
   all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. {11} I
   will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world,
   and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your
   name - the name you gave me - so that they may be one as we are one.
   {12} While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that
   name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to
   destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. {13} "I am coming to
   you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that
   they may have the full measure of my joy within them. {14} I have given
   them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the
   world any more than I am of the world. {15} My prayer is not that you
   take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.
   {16} They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. {17} Sanctify
   them by the truth; your word is truth. {18} As you sent me into the
   world, I have sent them into the world. {19} For them I sanctify
   myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

L  This is the Gospel of our Risen Lord
P  Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

* HYMN:  "Great Is Thy Faithfulness"                               - VU 288

SERMON: "The Ascension Of Our Lord" 

   Let us pray: O Lord, You have given Your Word to be a Lamp for our
   feet and a light for our path.  Grant us grace to receive Your truth
   in faith, hope and love - that we may be obedient to Your Will and
   live always for Your Glory; through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Did it ever strike you how a passage like those read today would be utterly
unintelligible to a person who had no faith in the risen Christ?  Which is
probably as it should be.  In fact, the whole faith story told in the Bible
only makes sense if you believe.  When you believe you find these kinds of
passages, not just making sense, but warming you from the inside out

So it is with the story of Ascension.  At first it makes no sense at all. 
Why in the world would this story, with its tale of Jesus, in his
resurrection body being lifted bodily from the earth into heaven, recorded
only by Luke, end up forming such a central part of the gospel and the
creeds of the church?

How does it go in the Apostle's creed?

I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord, 
   who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
   born of the Virgin Mary,
   suffered under Pontius Pilate, 
   was crucified, died, and was buried;
   he descended to the dead.
   On the third day he rose again;
   He ascended into heaven, 
   he is seated at the right hand of the Father, 
   and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

He ascended into heaven - and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

Or, as it says in The Book of The Acts of The Apostles:

   He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud him from their
   sight.  They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going,
   when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.  "Men of
   Galilee", they said, "Why do you stand here looking into the sky? 
   This same Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven, will come
   back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."

This record of the bodily ascension of Jesus into heaven after his death
and resurrection is strange story to those who do not believe, one that is
hard to understand, but for me - and for all who believe - it is a story of
tremendous comfort - for it points to - and completes - the story of who
Jesus was - and is - namely the Son of The Living God, the one who came
from heaven and took upon himself our flesh   and who, having died for us -
takes the essential part of our nature back with him into heaven - where he
- and by implication we, are made holy.

Christ Jesus, is at the right hand of the Father - even as he shares
completely in the nature of the Father.  He is there - with the saints - to
intercede for us and to care for us until he returns again - in the manner
he left us - upon the clouds.

The Ascension is that part of the story of Christ Jesus that allows us to
say that where two or more are gathered in his name, there he is.

The Ascension is that part of the gospel that allows us to say that unto
Jesus - every knee shall bow - in heaven and on earth and under the earth.

The Ascension preserves - and indeed helps to create - what we call the
Trinitarian mystery - namely that God is both three and one.

He is seated at the right hand of the Father, and from there he shall come
to judge the living and the dead.

Our Jesus - our Saviour - did not simply fade away like some breath on the
wind after the resurrection.  His form, his substance, his identity, are
instead made one with the Father's - and yet remain unique - much as we
believe our form, our substance, our identity, will also, in a similar
manner become one with the Father - and yet remain unique.

It is a marvellous tale - this tale of the Ascension - when you believe. 
It assures us of the integrity of the story - and of our own future within

If the story of the ascension is hard for unbelievers to read and
understand, then the gospel passage today is even more so. For here we have
recorded a portion of prayer of Jesus on the night of his betrayal - that
section which is often labelled in modern editions of the Bible: "Jesus
Prays For His Disciples".

Its talk of being in the world, but not of the world, is confusing to those
outside of the church.  So too is the talk about how Jesus and the Father
share all things both in this world - and in the next - including us.  So
much so it can obscure the message that Jesus is giving his followers even
as he prays to the Father for them and about them.

If you read the passage a couple of times as a believer however, two things
pop out.  One is that Jesus is worried about the rag-tag group of followers
he is leaving behind. (His concerns are well founded).  

The second thing is that Jesus is grateful to God that he has these
followers (including you and I).

Jesus prays for the disciples - and for us - knowing what difficulties they
will have to face.  He reminds them and us that we have been called and
consecrated or - to use the word most commonly used in the translation of
this passage, sanctified. 

In the Hebrew tradition, to be consecrated meant to be set apart for a
specific purpose.  Things were set apart for use in the Temple, but more
importantly, people were set apart to do God's work.  

To be set apart means that we not go into protective hiding, but that we
realize we have been called and are to be agents of God in the world.  We
are sanctified or consecrated in truth. 

This sense of being consecrated was a repetitious theme of the prophets as
well. The People of God were a consecrated, a chosen people. They were not
to gloat and feel privileged, but had a responsibility. 

They, and we as Jesus' community, must live out the responsibility of that
call, that "consecration in truth".  We are called to work for justice,
peace, love and ethical behaviour in the world.  The forces against us
belong to "the world" that Jesus mentions in his prayer, and knowing the
power of "the world", he is praying for us as we go out to bring his

It is evident from Jesus' words that he has planted something in us that
gives us a different vision, a different way of being and acting.  He has
planted in us a Word that he has received from his Father.  It causes us to
see things in another light, to evaluate ourselves and others by Another's
standard; a standard of love. 

Hence the talk of being in the world, but not of the world.
It serves to identify us more fully with him - who himself was in the world
but not of the world.

Jesus doesn't want his disciples to pull out of this world and start a new
nation on some distant island.  If that was the plan for us - he would have
said so.  Rather he sends us equipped to go into the world and make a
difference, and to do so as one who is not of this world, but rather is
"consecrated in truth".

What does it mean to be in the world but not of the world.

The struggles of Northern Ireland have long contained stories of offenses
of one side against another and then reprisals for the offenses.  An Irish
Methodist minister, Cheryl Jane Walter, tells a story that exemplifies
being "in the world but not of it ".  

   A bombing of civilians in the town of Ennishillen, Northern Ireland
   in 1987, killed many civilians.  The IRA claimed responsibility,
   leaving no doubt of the perpetrators.  A 20 year old student nurse
   Marie Wilson, was trapped in the rubble with her father, Gordan. 
   She asked him if he were all right, and clutching his hand said her
   last words, "Daddy, I love you very much."  She was removed from the
   rubble, but later died in the hospital.  Gordan Wilson grieved for
   his 20 year old daughter, yet he said he felt no ill will.  Indeed,
   he said he would pray for the people who planted the bomb.  Normally
   reprisals are the response to such an act. Gordan Wilson's words of
   forgiveness defused the community's anger.  

Isn't that what it means to be in the world but not of it? And isn't that
what it means to be "consecrated to truth" and, as Jesus prays in the
opening of the prayer, protected by God's Holy Name?

It doesn't make sense - unless you believe.  But then it does.

And so does the Ascension - it makes clear just who and what we have in
Christ Jesus   

We have the story not only of God taking on flesh and coming among us,
   in this world but not of it,
   fully human, fully one of us,
But we also have that human one taking our nature with him back to God,
   being there, ruling, being everywhere.

It is the completion of the story, save one item, the giving of the Holy
Spirit, which we celebrate next week.

As it is found in the prayer of Jesus...
   I will remain in the world no longer,
   but I am coming to you.

Because Jesus is glorified and lifted up to God
Because he is ascended into heaven, he is able to be with us now,
Because he has been sanctified, he can sanctify us.
His prayer for us is heard.

We need not look up and wonder where he is,
for by his going, he is able to come.
What we are to do is to open ourselves to the Spirit,
listen to the word that God has given us,
and go out into the world, and do what we are to do,
knowing that God will protect us - and bring us safe to his side
when our work and witness is done.

Almighty God, Your Son Jesus promised that if He was lifted up, He would
draw all to Himself.  Draw us to Him by faith, so that we may live to
serve You and look toward life eternal....  Lord, hear our prayer...

Loving and Compassionate God, your Son our Saviour is with you in eternal
glory. Give us faith to see that, true to his promise, he is among us
still, and will be with us to the end of time.... Lord, hear our prayer...

God of the humble and homeless, the poor and the persecuted, thank you for
exalting Christ Jesus and giving Him a name above all other names.  Today
we rejoice that He who was the meekest and weakest of all earth's children
is at Your right hand.  Now we know that the homeless Son of man is more
truly at home than anyone else on earth. We thank you for the glory you
have granted him and we remember before you now those who, like he was, are
the least among us - the homeless in our world - the refugees and the poor
- the victims of war - and the little ones who have been left alone. 
Grant, O God, that they may know your love in this world - and join Christ
in the next... Lord, hear our prayer...

God of the defeated and the lonely, the despised and the hungry, the
misjudged and the imprisoned, the suffering and the dying, we thank you for
coming among us in Christ Jesus to reconcile and make new all of creation. 
We pray now for those of your children who are in need.  We especially hold
before you today....

- intercessions as shared earlier in service

Lord, hear our prayer...

Eternal Father, Your Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven
that He might rule over all things as Lord.  Keep the church in the unity
of the Spirit and in the bond of His peace that we might show the world the
light you want them to see.  Bless us here at St. Andrew's - and indeed all
your people - with vision and faith, obedience, and joy.  We ask it in
Jesus' name.  Amen


* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS: As the Offering is presented all stand for the
Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU 541) and Prayer of

   Gracious God,  we thank you for all the gifts you have bestowed upon
   us - those gifts that you give to sustain us each day and those
   gifts you give us for the ministry to which you call us.  Receive
   and bless all that we offer to you now for the work of your
   Kingdom...  We ask it in the name of the one who lives and reigns
   with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, both now and forever.  Amen. 

* DEPARTING HYMN:  "You Servants of God"                           - VU 342

* COMMISSIONING (Unison):  In the power of the Holy Spirit we now go forth
   into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people of God, the body of

Go in peace, love and care for one another in the name of Christ;
- and may the tender and nurturing hands of God, embrace you,
- the farseeing eyes of God watch over you,
- the breath of God sustain you,
- and the prayers of the Risen Christ protect you
both now and forevermore.  Amen

* THREE FOLD AMEN & CHORAL BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"            - VU 964

copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 2000 -2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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